As we close another chapter and head into 2023, it’s nice to reflect on how great it felt to get back to a normal racing season. Although the COVID hangover continues to linger (and definitely hit some of our fellow athletes harder than others), 2022 did not disappoint when it came to good racing in Michigan.


The first FLY AWARDS happened back in 2018 and then again in 2019. 2020 and 2021 were just plain weird when it came to racing. Everyone was struggling to manage how to maintain fitness during a pandemic, how they felt about racing, how to stay healthy. Then our poor race directors and crews clamoring over how and IF to put on a race safely. Those years were disruptive to the entire multi-sport racing community as both athletes and races took a hit. We continue to pull ourselves up.


With a somewhat normal racing schedule last year, we asked for your feedback and once again you answered. There have been several fun and friendly shifts in the race scene universe since 2019. From brand new races that have changed ownership,  younger demographics, old school races (IYKYK), tons more cycling opportunities — each got a piece of this year’s Best in Michigan Racing 2022.


Also notable: A lot of good events didn’t make it the top three this year but if there was an Age Group division, every single one of them would have placed.

Congratulations to those recognized by your fellow race community!

Maybe you’re a newbie and are looking for that first triathlon or first 5K. Maybe you’re looking to try out a new distance. From the lake shore to the urban areas of West Michigan, there’s a little something for everyone. Truly, it’s the little things that make for a great race. See you in 2023!

Best 5K

Grand Rapids Turkey Trot

To some, the Turkey Trot may just be another 5K. For those who lives are affected as a result of the money raised, it is much more than just another race.


This year was a record Turkey Trot on many counts. Along with amazing sponsors collaboratively donating $72,000 and with over 4,500 participants, a collective $121,074.51 was raised. These two, together, increased funding for Grand Rapids Public Schools athletics over 2021 by $41,000! It truly takes a Village. Well done, West Michigan!


“We come to this from a place of gratitude and appreciation for the support of the community and their continued love over all of these 30 years. It’s made it what it’s truly become — a family, community-supported event,” Holly Visser, Race Director

Runners up: 

Brian Deimer 5K – Festival of Races

Spectrum Health Irish Jig

Best 10K

Amway Riverbank Run 10K

It seems that the 10K distance is also a popular choice for West Michigan runners. Each of the Amway Riverbank Run distances attract a wide range of participants, from serious runners to people who are there for tradition while spending that time with thousands of others. This year’s 10k Award Winner can claim a super festive atmosphere, with music, food, and exciting finish line action to make the experience enjoyable for participants and spectators alike.


If 5K is your thing, perhaps up your distance but if you’re a lover of the 6.2, then this is one that voters think you should do.

Runners up: 

Rivertown Races 10K

North Shore Trail Run 10K

Best Weird Distance Race

Lake Michigan Credit Union Bridge Run – 10 miles

There’s so many great things to say about this race, from views of the city, to Kyle Cutler’s cargo shorts, the presence of RunGR and other local running teams, super community involvement, MyTeam Triumph and folks that just like running. The 10 mile distance offers many training for a fall marathon a good gauge of where they are in their training. It always brings the fastest of the fastest, and lots of smiles at the finish line. This year’s added bonus was East Grand Rapids Drumline heading down to the finish line. Distances: 5K and 10 mile.

Runners up: 

Amway Riverbank Run 25K

Hope Network One in Five Marathon

Best Marathon

University of Michigan Health – West
Grand Rapids Marathon

Grand Rapids Marathon hits the top of the podium this year. Not only is it a day that many local runners come together and run in the fall weather, course is known for being flat and fast, which makes it a popular choice for runners looking to set a personal record or qualify for the Boston Marathon. The Half Marathon also takes top honors this year. Many runners in the area have easy access to this course to train, making it a popular choice when it comes to throwing down.


There is now a 5k option which moved from Saturday to Sunday, as well as the Grand Rapids Kids Marathon, providing a weekend of distances that are accessible to runners of all abilities and ages. In addition to the running events, the Grand Rapids Marathon also includes a fun health and fitness expo, live music, and a post-race party. The race takes place in the fall and attracts thousands of runners from around the country.

Runners up: 

Traverse City Track Club Bayshore Marathon

Detroit Marathon

Best Half Marathon

University of Michigan Health – West
Grand Rapids Marathon

Runners up: 


Rivertown Races 1/2  Marathon

Toughest Race (multi-sport)

Dirty Mitten Gravel Triathlon (Half Distance)

We had the privilege of taking the picture of this athlete, Lori Owinga. After the race she posted a race cap describing the experience. We’ll just share some of the excerpts here:
“The positive atmosphere, the tight knit community/friendships, the camaraderie, the many health benefits, the challenge to overcome difficult things, and the pure JOY of encouraging and witnessing others who are doing the same. That’s why I TRI.
Last weekend I completed my first gravel triathlon. It was the HARDEST race to date.
  • Gorgeous multi loop swim course that may have been a tiny bit short but with all the turns (10 total), I’m claiming this as a shiny new PR! HUGE shout out to Lucas David and Front Pack Swim for helping me overcome my fears in the water and for teaching me better stroke mechanics. Swimming is now one of my favorite things.
  • The bike. Over 4000 ft. of climbing up and down beautiful gravel roads and not one but TWO trips down Sager Rd. BRUTAL. Also BRUTAL was trying to hang with epic cyclists Kristi Neeld and Paul Tocknell! So thankful to have shared the adventures of this bike course with them.
  • Four loop run course that traveled through a wide variety of terrain. It was crazy CHALLENGING both mentally and physically.

All the finish line feels as I was somehow blessed to break the tape as 1st female OA!

Bravo, Jon Conkling and John Mosey, The Dirty Mitten half crazy distance debut was such an ADVENTURE!! Can’t wait to watch it explode!

Runners up: 

North Country Trail Run

Marji Gesick

Lori Owinga, 1st OA Female, Dirty Mitten Half Distance 2022

Best Race Bling

Dirty Mitten Triathlon

I mean just look at it. It speaks for itself.


You can always count on Tris4Health to be extra when it comes to the bling! In 2022, the Dirty Mitten Gravel Triathlon World Championship of the Universe Victory Belt to the winners of the Half “Crazy” Distance. The moment has finally arrived! Congrats to Nathan Tainter of Covington, KY and Lori Aho-Ouwinga of Gladstone, MI for earning the debut Championship! Wear those MASSIVE belt honor with pride! #GETDIRTY

Runners up: 

North Country Trail Race

Grand Rapids Turkey Trot

Best Bike Race


LIKE THE CLASSIC IT’S NAMED AFTER, the Barry-Roubaix tests riders against 80% rolling gravel roads, pavement, one mile of rough two track, rocks, sand, mud, sometimes snow, ice or whatever Mother Nature dishes up. It’s one of the world’s most popular gravel races and an event welcoming of all cyclists. There’s over $40,000 in awards cash and prizes.


The race offers  four race lengths to challenge riders of all abilities:

  • The 18-mile Lauf “Chiller” has approx. 1,200 feet of ascent.
  • The 36-mile “Thriller” climbs approx. 2,200 feet of ascent.
  • The 62-mile SRAM “Killer” climbs approx. 3,800 feet of ascent.
  • The 100-mile Panaracer “Psycho Killer” has over 7,000 feet of ascent! There is a 400 racer cap.


The Barry-Roubaix proudly participates in the Michigan Gravel Race Series


They also have 45NRTH Fat Bike specific categories in the 18 & 36 mile races and offer a Youth Team Competition sponsored by Security Credit Union.


Registration opened Dec 3, 2022 at 8 AM EST

Runners up: 


Dirty Mitten Gravel Race

Best Kids Race

Grand Rapids Kids Triathlon
Grand Rapids Mini Trot

We were pretty excited to see these two great events tie each other. Grand Rapids Youth Duathlon and the Grand Rapids Turkey Mini Trot are perfect events to get kids moving and introduced to multisport!


The GR Youth Duathlon is put on by the folks at Tris4Heath and ties into their Grand Rapids Triathlon weekend. The event is a bike-run event consisting of a paved trail bike followed by a field run. The event began in 2012 and has been held every year since. It has been a “Splash and Dash” as well as a kids triathlon all the while being part of the larger Grand Rapids Triathlon. In 2022, they switched venues for the triathlon event at Ada Park.


The Grand Rapids Turkey Trot team made some changes to their race this year as well. They moved the mini to the beginning of the race. Not only was there an incredible turnout, it got the crowd excited. We loved that they moved their start and finish to the front of the VanAndel Arena. The finish line was a whole block long with folks cheering the kids on!

Runners up: 

Grand Rapids Kids Marathon


Brian Deimer Festival of Races 

Most Scenic

TCTC Bayshore Marathon

Founded in 1983 by local running enthusiasts who wanted to share the beauty of the Grand Traverse Region and the Old Mission Peninsula, the Bayshore Marathon has become a “must run” for runners throughout the Midwest and beyond. Many runners return year after year to enjoy the scenic courses which run along the shores of beautiful Grand Traverse Bay. To ensure a more enjoyable experience, the number of runners in all three races is limited. Bayshore races are always held on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

The Full Marathon starts on the grounds of Northwestern Michigan College then winds through the waterfront along the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. This out-and-back USATF certified course is flat, scenic, and fast making it a favorite for both runners attempting to qualify for Boston or finish their first marathon! Registration is limited to 1800 participants.

The point-to-point half marathon is the most popular event and sells out in minutes. Racers are bused out to the start at Devil’s Dive Road. The course later joins the Marathon course following Bluff, Center Rd. and East Shore Dr. back to the finish line. Expect a fast and scenic race with some of the most breathtaking views available on any Half-Marathon course. Limited to 3400 participants.

The out-and-back 10K winds through one mile of residential neighborhoods. It then follows the marathon course along the west shore of East Grand Traverse Bay. Runners turn around at about the 3 mile marker. The course is flat, 100% paved and shaded along much of the route. Expect a fast and scenic race. There will be 2 aid stations on the course. Registration is limited to 2000 participants.

Traverse City Track Club uses proceeds from Bayshore to sponsor many running and health-related activities in and around Northwest Michigan. — Traverse City Track Club

Runners up: 

Grand Haven Triathlon

Dirty Mitten Triathlon

Mercy Health Seaway Half Marathon

Best Trail Race

North Country Trail Run

I absolutely love racing North Country. It is a trail race along the North Country Trail. It sells out extremely fast because the runners are so well taken care of. There is a half marathon, marathon, and 50 mile ultra race. The swag bag is the best. Last year the runners were given a tech shirt, t shirt, 2 different types of hats, coffee mug, sweatshirt, and cinch bag. Then when you finished the race you get a medal as big as your head! The aide stations on the run are top notch. Anything you could ever want they have. Trail mix, watermelon, orange slices, pickle juice, flat coke, pizza, baked potatoes, and more! This will be my third year running the half and even though it’s tough, it’s one of my favorites!

— Barbara

Runners up: 

Brainy Day Trail Run

Hurt the Dirt

Best Swag

North Country Trail Run

Runners up: 

Amway Riverbank Run

University of Michigan – West Grand Rapids Marathon

Best Triathlon

Grand Rapids Triathlon Series

Grand Rapids Triathlon is a two-day event on June 10 & 11, 2023 and the largest independent triathlon in Michigan. Saturday is a newbie-friendly day with Super Sprint & Sprint distances bringing in some of the speediest of athletes who love shorter distances. Sunday trends towards more-experienced athletes with Olympic & Half distances. Both days features triathlon, duathlon, aquabike, relay and swim-only events.


In 2022, they had 1,413 Registered Athletes

  • New Triathletes: 327
  • Returning Triathletes: 635
  • States Represented:34
  • Youngest Athlete: 12 years
  • Oldest Athlete: 80 years


The course is flat and fast, ideal for the new and experienced triathlete alike. It begins with a beautiful swim start in the Thornapple River, with a ride out on the flat country-road bike course then run a scenic, shaded course with loads of local energy. It’s the largest independent triathlon in Michigan and offers Super Sprint, Sprint, Olympic and Half distances in addition to Aquabike, Duathlon, Relays, and Swim-Only events. Put this world-class event in Grand Rapids, MI on your calendar:  June 10 & 11, 2023.


Race Location: Ada Park – 1116 Buttrick Ave SE, Ada, MI 49301


To register:

Runners up: 

Michigan Titanium

Bear Lake

Post Race Party

University of Michigan – West Grand Rapids Marathon

Hope Network One in Five Marathon

What makes a great post-race party? Good food and drink both which come quite easily to West Michigan race events. Also upping the game, Hope Network One in Five Marathon had a post-race party that was held in the evening and included food trucks, beer, photo booths and a DJ.


The Grand Rapids Marathon Post-Race party is always part of the runner’s race day. Also not shy with their beer and food game, year after year, it is a sunny, fall day, perfect for participants and supporters to hang out and celebrate the day away!

Runners up: 

Rode to Hell

She Runs

Hope Network One in Five Marathon
Grand Rapids Marathon After Party

Favorite Coach

Mike Wojciechowski

In 2022, Mike Wojciakowski celebrated his 19th year as the Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track Coach at Aquinas College. “Woj’s” success with the middle distance and distance runners has been exceptional. He has directed the men’s and women’s Cross Country teams to  20 WHAC Championships, six Region VIII championships and 14 “Top 10” and eight “Top  5″ finishes at the NAIA National Championships, including a second place finish in 2004 (the highest national finish for any team in Aquinas College history), a third place finish in 2008 and most recently a back-to-back 4th place finishes by the women in 2015 & 2016. Mike has also directed ten cross country student-athletes to All-American status.


A 20-time WHAC Coach of the Year, Woj’s success on the track has been just as spectacular. The Saints have won National Championships in the Men’s 4×800 Relay at the 2012 NAIA Outdoor Championships and the Women’s DMR at the 2016 Indoor Championships under Woj’s direction. He has sent numerous athletes to the indoor and outdoor national championships, 46 of them receiving All American recognition a total of 113 times. Mike has guided many runners to the Saints top five all time performance list as well.


A USA Track and Field Level II certified coach in the distance events, Woj’s knowledge, personal approach and work ethic has been responsible for developing the Saints distance program into one of the best small college programs in the nation. A four year varsity letter winner in both cross country and track for the Saints, Wojciakowski captained both teams during his senior year. An outstanding student as well as a runner, Wojciakowski earned Academic All American honors in cross country his senior year.


Mike and his wife, Amorena, and their two daughters, Cecelia (6) & Julia (3),  and son, Collin (1), reside on the northwest side of Grand Rapids.” — Aquinas College

Runners up: 

Rob Hyde

A to Z 

Stuart Coaching

Best Race Director

Ron Knoll

Jon Conkling & Jon Mosey

Then there is long time local, Ron Knoll who manages Superior Multisport out on the Lakeshore. Back in 2009, Ron was the first RD in Michigan to successfully complete and obtain the USA Triathlon Race Director Certification.Ron has deep ties with the lakeshore community, including law enforcement, the US Coast Guard and small businesses. He holds a marathon in the spring and two triathlons in the summer. He also serves as RD for a handful of non-profit 5Ks throughout the summer. As an athlete himself, what he loves most about putting on running and triathlon events is the opportunity to stay active and be around other athletically minded people. He also loves the camaraderie and the Lake Michigan lakeshore vibe!


When it comes to race directors in Michigan, we aren not lacking in good ones! So much so that this year we had a three way tie. Actually a two way, if you count Jon Conkling and Jon Mosey, Tris4Health, as one entity, which they most certainly are. The Johns had a successful 2022 hold ten events and just recently added the Grand Rapids Fondo (formerly MSU Fondo) to their portfolio of races. When “the Johns” decided to take over as Race Directors for of existing races in the state, including Grand Rapids Triathlon, they were prepared for a challenging, yet exciting opportunity. Both experienced triathletes, they were confident that they could take existing events and raise the bar even higher.

Runners up: 

Rob Hyde

Kyle Cutler

Ron Knoll
Jon Conkling and John Mosey

Best Race Announcer

Larry Crabbe

Larry is EVERYWHERE and has the unique gift of making people feel special. He unselfishly takes the spotlight that could easily shine on himself and passes it to those around him. He is embedded deep into the multisport community and he takes announcing a race to a whole new level — with kindness and consideration.

Runners up: 

Steve Benson

Jeff Jacobi

Larry Crabbe
Todd Buckingham
Abby Snell

Favorite Local Athlete

Abby Snell
Todd Buckingham

Runners up: 

Scott Ursum

Nancy Agrillo

Special thanks to all of our contributing photographers that work hard to showcase the athletes all year round. We appreciate all that you do for our community!